The aim of this thesis is to understand the political struggles that underpin international investment law. Social movements of various kinds have expressed alarm over an ‘epidemic’ of international legal challenges by transnational corporations against state measures designed to protect the environment, public health, or human rights. These state measures have often been introduced directly in response to hard-fought civil society campaigns (ranging from antimining protests in El Salvador to climate change campaigns in Germany), yet academic analysis of what is formally known as ‘Investor-State Dispute Settlement’ proceeds on the premise that these are simply disputes between ‘investors’ and ‘states’, as indeed the term implies. In turn, where the academic focus shifts towards wider questions of why this field of law emerged, and what role it plays in global politics today, even the investors disappear from view, and only states remain. The theoretical argument of this thesis is that the state is not an agent in political struggles, but a social structure that is both the ‘congealment’ of historic social struggles and a ‘strategically selective’ arena within which social struggles are fought today. This theoretical argument challenges the state-centric premises of the academic literature, and enables a different empirical explanation of the politics of international investment law, and of the 46 investment disputes arising out of environmental protection measures that have been selected for closer analysis. Drawing upon the work of scholars such as William Robinson, Stephen Gill, and David Schneiderman, the empirical argument of this thesis is that international investment law arose at the initiative of a transnational capitalist class, and it is designed to constrain the political agency of opposing social groups by ‘locking in’ policies that favour corporations. At stake in the struggle over international investment law is ultimately the very possibility for a different future.
|Date of Award||11 Aug 2015|
|Supervisor||Carl Simon Death (Supervisor) & Jenny Mathers (Supervisor)|